The Most Exciting Golf Storylines of 2013
After a big year on the PGA Tour circuit, we are already looking forward to a brand new season and all that comes with the turn of the calendar. The 2013 outlook is shaping up to be even greater than the year we just had.
The names that graced the greens over the past 12 months will be back once more—some desperate to prove themselves once again, some keen to build on the successes of the previous year.
The unbelievable moments that we were witness to, such as the European victory at the Ryder Cup, or Bubba Watson’s remarkable win at the 2012 Masters, will be back again—albeit in different ways—and we will once again be entertained by the best the world has to offer.
2013 will be a huge year for the PGA Tour and for all of those involved in it. Read on to see the most exciting storylines to watch in golf next year.
And don't miss the start of the new year, with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions on Golf Channel, Jan. 3 to Jan. 7, live in primetime from Hawaii.
2013 Tour Schedule
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With the release of the schedule for the 2013 season (per PGA.com), we can already begin to picture in our minds how the season will unfold. The 36-event season, which also includes four playoff events, will begin with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions on Jan. 4 and run right through to the Tour Championship in late September—giving plenty of opportunities for all that have hoped and dreamed for in 2013 to turn from dreams into reality.
There are no significant changes to report in terms of scheduling or events other than the number of events and playoff events, though the Valero Texas Open will move to immediately before the 2013 Masters rather than after it due to scheduling difficulties.
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said (per USA Today) of the new schedule:
We are extremely pleased with the continued stability and strength of the PGA TOUR schedule. While the upcoming season is unique in that our traditional fall tournaments are shifting to the start of the 2013-2014 season, we are very excited about the upcoming change that will establish a definitive end to the PGA TOUR season at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.
Rory McIlroy on Top of the World
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After one of the strongest individual seasons in recent history, Rory McIlroy is clearly on top of the PGA Tour and, at just 23, could well remain there for many years to come. One look at his trophies and achievements list in 2012 proves that fact to be true.
His first three starts on the 2012 Tour yielded a win, a runner-up and a third-placed finish. He won the Honda Classic, the PGA Championship at Kiawah, the Deutsche Bank and the BMW Championship—skyrocketing himself to the top of the PGA Tour Money List, the European Money List and the official world golf ranking.
McIlroy also picked up a victory in the Ryder Cup with the European Team to polish off an incredible season on tour—one that will be tough to replicate in 2013 but one that still has plenty of avenues for improvement, most notably with the majors.
If the 23-year-old could pick up one or two of the big tournaments this season, then he will truly establish himself as the man to watch out for over the next decade and, dare we say it, potential heir to Tiger Woods as one of the greatest player currently in operation.
Who Will Stand Up to Him?
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If that weren’t to happen, and McIlroy wasn’t going to completely dominate all season—which is certainly not a given—then who are the men most likely to stand up to him and challenge him for the No. 1 ranking and best player in the sport status?
The big names will no doubt challenge once more—Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Luke Donald, Keegan Bradley—and the continued rise of players like Webb Simpson and Graeme McDowell will build on strong seasons last year to be in the hunt again this year.
Perhaps we’re about to see another further breakout season for Ian Poulter or Sergio Garcia—someone that has been close to that elite level, but not quite there, for some time now.
Keegan Bradley, for mine, is the man that will launch the challenge to McIlroy this year—continuing his incredible rise to form following his strong rookie year in 2011.
Who Will Be the Breakout Star of 2013?
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Gazing into our crystal balls for a second, let’s have a look at who could be the breakout star on the 2013 PGA Tour this year, and I think the name we’ll be hearing a lot this year is Bo Van Pelt.
The 37-year-old is known around the tour and has shown he has the makings to take his game to that elite level—he just hasn’t quite gotten there yet.
Is 2013 the year that Van Pelt, who somehow missed out on a Ryder Cup selection, finally takes that next step?
I say yes.
Van Pelt is such a clean and crisp hitter of the ball—ranking third in total driving—and has a terrific putting game to couple with that—ranking sixth in putting per hole and eighth in birdies per round for the 2012 season.
Despite the fact he didn’t win a single tournament in 2012, Van Pelt finished the season in such good form—four consecutive top 10 finishes—that he is seemingly primed for a big year ahead in 2013. I’d say we’re looking at two event victories and a serious challenge in the 2013 Masters.
Who Will Be the Biggest Flop of 2013?
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What about the other way?
Who’s the player that we won’t see challenge for anything next season—sparking a dramatic turn down the leaderboards, rankings lists and favoritism to the point that 2013 will be considered nothing than an absolute flop?
Jim Furyk, simply for the fact that the man had his chances in 2012 and he didn’t take them, and he might very well never get those same chances again. At least not in the strong positions that he was at various times throughout the year—only to fall at the final hurdle time and time again.
The veteran blew his chance at a playoff spot at Akron with a double-bogey on the last hole from the middle of the fairway; he blew his chances in the Ryder Cup over the final few holes; he threw away his chance at the U.S. Open with his tee-shot on the 16th.
From incredibly strong positions, Furyk finished with nothing—winless for the season—and will be incredibly lucky if he can make it back to where he was last year. 2012 was his chance at great success; 2013 will be nothing but disappointment for the American.
The "Return" of Tiger Woods
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At the start of every season, we ask the same old question—is this the year we get the real Tiger back? And whilst we know that we might very well never get “old” Tiger back, what we’re really asking is whether this is the year that Woods finally starts winning again.
And judging off last year, 2013 may very well be the year.
After all, Woods won his first tour event in nearly two years at the Arnold Palmer Invitational—finishing the season with three tour event victories and nine top-10 finishes through his 19 starts.
Those numbers reflect a consistency we haven’t seen from Woods in recent years, and if he can continue to improve on his short game, then we might well be seeing the emergence of Tiger Woods once more as a genuine threat come major-time on the PGA Tour.
Not that he really ever stopped being a threat, even when he was playing terribly.
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Let’s chance pace a little and take a quick look at two of the biggest chances on the PGA Tour next season—starting with the elimination of Q-School as a means of qualifying for the PGA Tour.
From 2013 onwards, players will only qualify for the Tour from the Web.com Tour, which they can qualify for through the PGA Q-School.
With the vast majority of details still being debated and contested, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem commented as to the rationale behind the changes (per PGA.com):
Anytime you make a change, human nature is, “Why are we changing? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. There’s another way to look at things. “When things we are going pretty well, that’s the time to get better”…
The Anchored Putter
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One of the other major changes and storylines to watch in 2013 will be that of the anchored putter, which the USGA and R&A decided to eliminate slowly over the course of the next four years—with the new rules to be added in this year and effective from January 1, 2016.
Keegan Bradley, Ernie Els and Webb Simpson all won major championships using the anchored putter in 2012 and with three of the past five major champions won by anchored putters, the decision was made that the longer putter would be eliminated from the game.
Both the USGA and R&A attracted great criticism for the actions and rule changes, which can be read about here via ESPN. Their step back towards the purist, more traditional element of the game will no doubt outrage players that are currently playing (and winning) with the anchored putter, with the debate as to whether this is or isn’t the right call set to continue for many years to come.
The 2013 Masters
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Let’s have a look ahead then to some of the big tournaments set to enthrall us once more in 2013, and we start with the 2013 Masters. The field has already been announced for the tournament, so let’s take a look and see who could be holding the trophy aloft in 2013.
Last year’s champion Bubba Watson showed he has the skill set and tenacity to win at Augusta National and the likes of Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter were all close in 2012 also—making them all contenders once more this season.
Throw in the likes of Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods—the latter of whom is a real threat at this course—and the field is wide open for the 2013 Masters.
Check out the field here via OddsChecker.com, with some good value resting in Phil Mickelson at 10/1—a man who has proven he can succeed at this course year in and year out.
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What about the other major tournaments in 2013? What can we expect to see from the likes of the U.S. and British Opens as well as the PGA Championship and who can we expect to see thrive in the respective tournaments?
US Open: To be played June 13-16 at Merion Golf Club, Pennsylvania, United States of America.
Rory McIlroy stands out as a good pick here given his solid form last year and the fact that he’s already proven he can win the open, having done so in 2011.
British Open: To be played July 18-21 at Muirfield, Scotland.
The British Open always throws up a surprise name or two here for contention, so if you’re looking for an upset alert, then this is the one for you. Maybe a name like Bo Van Pelt or Keegan Bradley at around 80/1 could fancy your interest?
The 2013 PGA Championship
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To be played August 8-11 at Oak Hill Country Club, New York, United States of America.
There’s something about the final major of the year, and back at Oak Hill, we could be set for another fascinating week of golf at the 2013 PGA Championship. And for me, there’s really one man you can go for at this tournament—Tiger Woods—to clinch the final major of the year.
Woods has won the PGA Championship before and was strong last year—holding a share of the lead after the opening two days before unraveling to allow Rory McIlroy the win. So why not go with the feel good story and take Tiger Woods to win the final major of the year—proving that he still has what it takes to be considered elite?
2013 Player of the Year
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Looking at next year as a whole, the player that stands most to win the 2013 Player of the Year Award is none other than the man that won it this season—Rory McIlroy—who is seemingly finally launching his claim as the world’s top golfer at the moment.
The Irishman is playing consistent, high-quality golf, but most importantly, has the self-belief that he can and will perform at every single tournament he enters.
His incredible choke at the 2011 Masters has made him stronger as a player, and with the success of 2012 under his belt, will carry all the momentum into next season—achieving similar results to this season because of it.
It would take a brave man to suggest otherwise that McIlroy will repeat as the player of the year.